American Mettle Lower 48 -Viking

Ian Bird


I use color, contrast and texture to create a cohesive work out of discarded metal and objects.  Everything I use had its own life and story before it came to me.  I relate to their scratches, dents, faded paint and rust through my own experiences.  I use these fragments of old things to evoke nostalgia and enhance the appeal of the finished piece.  My work is not just about what you see before you, but also the curiousness of what the parts once were.    

My work looks old because it is made of old things. I don’t clean and polish my materials as part of my process, I incorporate the dents, scratches, dirt and rust when I can.  A material’s original design features can also pose a challenge as they are often unwilling to be cut and formed again. 

Everything I create is designed, cut and shaped using tools controlled by my hands, not computer controlled equipment.  My primary cutting tool is an old Bett-Marr sheet metal band saw.

My pieces are assembled with mechanical fasteners like rivets, or small screws.  I like the appearance of mechanical fasteners, and I like the challenge of figuring out where the holes have to be before I cut and shape a piece of material.  Rarely do I weld anything – and I believe that using glue on metals is a crime. 

I am inspired by Mid-Century Americana and car culture of that era. The bold colors, crazy shapes and outrageous space-age futurism of it makes me smile and think of a time when individuality was important, and desired. I’m also inspired by time, neglect and rust.  I marvel at the beauty of man-made things that have been left out to die.  Their rich aesthetic can only be created that way.  

Maps of the United States Lower 48 are my flagship pieces.  They have are the most detailed and time consuming of my works.  I also create other works such as abstracts, retro inspired signs, fish and other things that I just want to see created.